Taiwan: It Might Be a Very Dangerous Confrontation

published on July 3, 2020

the us taiwan relationship is a little

off because beijing keeps causing drama

but should america even care about

hurting the feelings of the Chinese

people

no these Chinese people welcome to China

uncensored I'm Chris Chappell here in

Taipei Taiwan you know there's a lot of

things the US government can't say when

it comes to Taiwan because of concerns

about angering China's communist leaders

and no one knows that better than

William Stanton he's the former director

of the American Institute in Taiwan

that's the de facto US Embassy here so

he's the former US ambassador who can't

be called an ambassador in a us

embassy that can't be called an embassy

in a country that can't be called a

country so I sat down with him to talk

about the future of this country thank

you for joining me today

pleasure to be with you so if I call you

the former US ambassador to Taiwan will

I start a war with China well you could

there very I should say they're very

Orthodox about such questions is an

interesting word for it yeah well you

know there's a lot of orthodoxy when

you're talking about China and they've

got a lot of stipulations and rules and

unfortunately in many ways we the rest

of the world often abides by them you

may have seen just yesterday I guess

there was a news report that they

criticized the 60 some-odd countries

that had congratulated saying when on

her electric victory hearing in China

and they said that was totally

inappropriate so why is it that the

President of the United States can meet

with the leader of North Korea but not

the democratically elected president of

Taiwan beats me

I've never understood it I mean you know

we've had why is it that up till now

officials military people can go on the

Pentagon from Taiwan but they we've

never allowed even low-level officials

of them you know periodically and

that's been changed but I mean we've had

Gerry Adams the terrorist was in the

State Department I think yes IRA fought

at one point this is a state department

we've had all kinds of people come in

the State Department we've had Russian

spies we know that somebody came in and

bugged the State Department at one point

so why is it that a fellow democracy a

friendly country people we ought to have

a closer relationship why do these

old-fashioned rules still guide so many

of our policies although Congress now is

at least twice passed laws that say we

should have higher level visits from

American cabinet officers for example

come to Taiwan and why is it that you

know the Taiwanese also we've invited

them to come at a higher level but that

never happens because we're not getting

White House approval well it seems like

for years the US government has operated

with the idea that we can't anger China

why not well absolutely I mean you know

I've often said you know we may have

hurt the feelings of the Chinese people

but the Chinese government has hurt the

feelings of the American people because

they do tell my feel the way you're

exactly right I mean they do all kinds

of things in terms of their treatment of

Muslims and Christians and you know the

following Gong and any religion that

they find dubious or doesn't strictly

adhere to the precepts of now Xi Jinping

thought Marxist theory with Chinese

characteristics they object to it and it

hurts their feelings well you know I'm

sure most of the people of China don't

know and don't care but if you want they

they can come up I guess with two

million no blog items saying that their

feelings are hurt but we shouldn't care

but you know this has become such a

tradition the only the only departure

that I'm really aware of I thought the

was

George Shultz who I knew when I was the

Hoover Institution for a year and I

worked before that my wife at the time

she was a special assistant for him so I

got to know him and I worked on a little

bit on his memoirs and he made it clear

that he understood that we should never

value a relationship for its own sake

and that's in his memoirs and according

to him that was Ronald Reagan's view as

well you have a relationship with the

country because if it's in your mutual

interest because you can accomplish

things to the extent you can't

accomplish things that are mutually of

interest to you then there's no reason

to be worried about whether we're

undermining this ho called sacred

relationship but we've also had over the

years so many people who have retired

from government then made money leading

CEOs from America to China getting paid

for it and these people have maintained

orthodoxy but a lot of that has changed

now I've noticed that began to notice it

really in 2014 there abouts what it is

clear is the people on both sides of the

aisle Democrats and Republicans

increasingly believe that the us-china

relationship is out of whack and that it

was serving one country's interests more

than the other so there's been a sea

change now well I know you've argued

that the US and Taiwan should have a

free trade agreement yeah well my

argument is based on the fact if you

look at all of the 20 free trade

agreements that the United States has

had or just call it a trade agreement

all of them I would say the principal

motive for most of them was political

and strategic and for a few others there

was also particularly the case of NAFTA

because Mexico encountered our neighbors

they're not hostile neighbors because

I'm not convinced about Canada please

carry on it but the idea was that you

know we could we had interests in

strengthening these countries the very

first free trade agreements was Israel

and that wasn't for economic Greece's

and then what followed were with

moderate Arab states which were

basically more friendly toward Israel

like Morocco and Jordan and Oman and

then we did you know Central American

States not because they were

economically important but because we

hoped that would help stabilize their

economies and would cut down illegal

immigration and I suppose maybe drugs I

don't know about that look Chile and

Peru in large part was because they were

moving towards more capitalist systems

in their governments so what would a

free-trade agreement with the us and

Taiwan do the main importance of it

would be strategic as a sign of us

endorsement and support for Taiwan

because Taiwan is kind of lonely out

here and it would encourage other

countries who haven't been you know a

relatively positive view toward Taiwan

like Japan to think about trying harder

to create free trade agreements because

the ultimate goal would be and it's

already happening as a result of the

trade war between the United States and

China is that increasingly Taiwan

doesn't want to be so economically

dependent on a China PRC and so it would

serve that purpose it would make Taiwan

I think a more attractive partner for

other countries and it'll be a way of

showing our support I mean after all

it's a country of 23 million people

that's a democracy and friendly to us

now we don't give them

any aid but let's remember that it's

over three billion dollars last time I

checked it was 35 billion dollars in

aid we give to Israel why do we do that

well they're historical reasons but

basically also we considered a democracy

that's friendly to the United States so

if we're doing it for Israel why

shouldn't we be more helpful to Taiwan

and I'm not saying give them money

necessarily but at least do a free trade

agreement with them

yeah and lower the cost of their exports

and and we you know there are already

our 11th largest trading partners so

it's a significant country well I'm

curious besides a free trade agreement

what more could the US do to support

Taiwan well we've done some of it

already under the current administration

we've been selling more arms that

they've asked for we should I think

there's a lot more interaction between

our militaries than is apparent but we

should increase it if we're going to

invite the Chinese who have been

declared a strategic competitor which is

a nice way of saying not very friendly

or worse why don't we invite Taiwan now

possibly what would happen is other

countries would say well we can't

participate because it'll hurt the

feelings of the Chinese people but in

that case well we can have our own

exercise with Taiwan we should be doing

that you know it'd be very useful in the

event of some sort of natural disaster

out here that we participate in if we've

got a record of participating I think we

should you know I think we should

consider you know I hope we are you know

more the latest technology for weapons

systems you know we should be you know

we already have joint training in some

areas I think that should be increased I

would like to see some Pentagon

officials openly come here high level

there are other things we could do I

mean we should speak out more

only about Taiwan every time that the

PRC objects to something with regard to

Taiwan for example are the fact that

Pompeo congratulated saying when our our

Secretary of State congratulated

Taiwan's newly elected again elected

president Chinese complained about it I

would like to see the press person get

out there and speak more strongly about

that stuff when Wang Yi the Foreign

Minister of Hong Kong makes a statement

that we have to sever the black hands

who are interfering in Hong Kong affairs

and then takes a swipe at the US for

what it's been doing we should say this

is nonsense and it's not the kind of

language that civilized countries use

it's particularly unfortunate at a time

when there's so much Chinese Chinese PRC

espionage going on in inside the United

States we shouldn't let them get away

with that kind of rhetoric used against

us and we just sort of supply and we

take it we've been doing that for far

too many years and we should talk back

well how do you think the Trump

administration has been handling Taiwan

well clearly in a much better fashion in

many ways but I'm troubled by what I

don't know what Trump really thinks

about Taiwan I know he received the

phone call initially which I gather his

staff advised him to do from saying when

it was a nice gesture but for example we

know he then later when tomorrow laco

and he met with Xi Jinping and he talked

about how she's jumping it explained to

him in just two minutes the whole

history of Korea and how Korea had

always been part of China and I thought

to myself well that's interesting I'm

sure the Koreans are gonna be unhappy

and they were but I thought to myself

surely they didn't meet for all that

length of time in Mara leggo and he

talked about Korean history as part of

China and he didn't talk about Taiwan

and subsequently we've heard on one

occasion you know there's I don't

remember the exact phrase but there was

something implying that you know perhaps

Taiwan could be a bargaining chip you

know everything was negotiable something

along those lines the people who stood

up most strongly have been people like

Randi Shriver

Department of Defense's now left Peter

Navarro who's on the trade negotiating

team Matt pottinger in the NSC John

Bolton has now left the government who's

always been very strongly supportive so

that gave a certain complexion I think

secretary Pompeo

I think his own views also are very

supportive of Taiwan but you know it's

been intermittent and I guess maybe the

president said something after the

election just now of saying when but he

should do more but I guess he's so

worried about getting a trade deal but

my own view has always been that I don't

think we're ever gonna get from the PRC

the kind of trade deal we want and need

protection of intellectual property

ending subsidies to state-owned

enterprises and so I don't think frankly

my own view is that trade is all that

with China PRC is all that important the

United States if you look of list of

countries least dependent on exports of

goods and services us is one of the

least dependent countries of the league

top the lowest ten the Chinese Communist

Party has threatened military action

against Taiwan if it actually came to

that what would the us do well I'm

always asked that and you know who knows

I mean

really but my answer is we could no

longer be the United States if we didn't

step in and defend Taiwan I mean God

knows we've we fought wars in the name

of democracy and fighting off communism

in Vietnam we went into a rock because

they had weapons of mass destruction and

they didn't and by the way people in

that I knew in the State Department who

were following arms said that was the

case

we went into who stayed in Afghanistan

to this day and it's still a hodgepodge

and that was one of the motives you know

he's also against Isis but we've been

involved in Syria so if we can get

involved in these kinds of conflicts you

know we certainly ought to support

Taiwan so otherwise we stop being the

United States that means we don't stand

for principle we just we just look after

our own interests and you know as I once

said to an Australian scholar who was

sort of brushing off the importance of

Taiwan I said well you know I can think

of another country that's a democracy

with only about 23 million people that

we we could brush off – that would of

course be Australia but we're firmly

consider them an ally so but even more

important – perhaps for some people if

if you know you don't care that much

about principles or the nature of the

United States

it's just strategically important one of

the reasons China wants it is because

then they put military bases on Taiwan

and they extend their reach into the

western Pacific and they rupture the

first island chain of defense that

general macarthur famously talked about

so the other thing is what are our

allies what is Japan going to think what

is Singapore going

you know recently Indonesia Malaysia and

various ways of votes both expressed

unhappiness with a nine – line are we

just gonna turn it all over once they

control the South China Sea and or if

they control it and if they control

Taiwan basically Japan and South Korea

are our allies and friends are isolated

and China calls the shots or PRC calls

the shots

is it possible than for the US to

normalize relations with Taiwan just

treated like any other country like what

would China actually do well I'd like to

see that they come you know I think

there were mistakes way back during the

time of Chiang kai-shek were you know

Taiwan could have remained in the UN

that might have been changed by PRC

eventually but there could have also

been there were discussions of dual

recognition that was a possibility so I

think we've dropped the ball in the past

whether we could pick it up in the

future I don't know I'd like to see that

they come because in my view Taiwan is

clearly a country it's a sovereign state

it's independent they have elections and

it's a democracy but I understand those

who argue that we don't want to

necessarily do anything that's going to

provoke a conflict what I always say is

anything we do with regard to Taiwan

that might lead to threats to Taiwan

there are already enough threats we

should always consult very closely with

Taiwan because they're in the best

position to judge what is safe what is

doable they have a better eye out and

reading of what what might

it's sometimes worries me for example if

some of my friends are big independence

advocates but that's all because they

they feel sure that the US will come in

and save the day but you know one of the

factors I think everybody realistically

has to recognize is the PRC today is

much military much stronger militarily

and you know it could be it could be a

very risky confrontation not only for us

but also for the PRC I mean we're not

pushovers for sure I know you've called

Taiwan a modern miracle what does that

mean all that it's accomplished in 40

years the miracle that in about less

than four decades really it went from

poverty to prosperity and it went from

military dictatorship to democracy and

it's a model of democracy in Asia now

and from many other parts of the world

and it's it's done all of that the real

miracle is if everything is done it's

done without really any natural

resources except the skills the hard

work the education of its people it

didn't start off like the United States

for the great river system the largest

plots of fertile land in the world and

you know with immigrants who could make

America great because we bring in skills

as we needed them you basically got a

little bit of help from the United

States and from others for missionaries

and people came in the beginning but by

and large has been on its own and it's

been politically isolated since 1972 and

yet they've accomplished all this that's

a miracle I think wonderful thank you so

much for joining me my pleasure

[Music]

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